Saturday, April 9, 2011

FASHION: Trademark Law: Shoemaker Christian Louboutin is Suing Yves Saint Laurent for Ripping off Trademark Red Soles

I seriously wonder if Louboutin will win this lawsuit against YSL for selling shoes with red soles. Although I'm no expert, trademark law is very different in the fashion industry than in most others. The products are considered expressive goods, they are not considered functional, so value is in the brand, not the actual goods. Fashion innovators have very little intellectual property protection, and, therefore, there is accepted large scale copying. The law decided that essentially decentralizing the industry equals higher levels of innovation (actually very rapid innovation) and everyone makes money. One reason is that a consumer who repeatedly purchases Jessica Simpson shoes does not also repeatedly purchase Manolo Blahniks. We'll see what happens with this though. As Louboutin and YSL are similar in market position, I'll be very interested to know how the law will be interpreted.

Christian Louboutin

UPDATE: There are some excellent comments if you care to read, which enlightened me about fashion trademark law in US & Europe. See them below, at end of post.

Here is the article from The New York Daily News:

Shoemaker Christian Louboutin is suing Yves Saint Laurent, charging the fashion house ripped off his famous red-sole trademark.


What heels!

Shoemaker Christian Louboutin is suing Yves Saint Laurent, charging the fashion house ripped off his famous red-sole trademark.

The crimson underside has been a fixture of Louboutin's gravity-defying heels since 1992, when the designer first painted red nail polish on the bottom of one pair, says a lawsuit filed Thursday in Manhattan Federal Court.

Louboutin charges that this year, Yves Saint Laurent started selling its own version of the red soled shoe.

"Defendants use of red footwear outsoles that are virtually identical to plaintiff's Red Sole Mark is likely to cause and is causing confusion, mistake and deception among the relevant purchasing public as to the origin of the infringing footwear," the lawsuit says.

"The location of the bright color on the outsole of a woman's pump is said to provide an alluring 'flash of red' when a woman walks down the street, or on the red carpet of a special event," the lawsuit says.

The 27-page suit lists a veritable who's who of fashionistas who love Louboutins, including the casts of "Sex in the City," "Desperate Housewives" and "Gossip Girl."

It says that in January, Louboutin learned YSL was selling red-soles at Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

Louboutin has repeatedly asked Yves Saint Laurent to stop selling the shoes. A spokeswoman for Yves Saint Laurent declined to comment.



Alexa said...

I've seen a lot of brand-less shoes with red soles around here.. Not sure if it's really possible to enforce this kind of trade mark on a world-wide scale.

Shannon Elle said...

I believe this lawsuit is filed in the United States. I'm not sure I like when successful designers (already made oodles of money) try to control what other designers are doing. I think rapid innovation in the fashion industry is more important than regulation, in order for all to be successful and give many different options to different consumers with different size bank accounts. You're right about the knock-offs, Alexa. I've seen red soles on many other brands of shoes, so...we'll see what happens.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a misunderstanding about what this lawsuit entails. Unlike a copyright or a patent, a trademark right does not attach unless there is a product behind it. So Louboutin is not alleging that the desing was copied. He is alleging that by using red soles on shoes, YSL is creating confusion in the mind of consumers. So consumers that would normally buy his shoes may buy the other guy's shoes by mistake because they have red soles as well. This is a suit for what is known as creating "likelihood of confusion" in the minds of consumers and in the USA is considered an unfair business practice. And in fact this lawsuit may even be a stronger case if it were brought in Europe because they have much stronger laws on unfair business practices. A trademark is something that identifies the source of the goods in the minds of consumers. Since he has done this since like 1993, he claims this is a trademark he owns.

Shannon Elle said...

Hi Anonymous, thank you for the thoughtful comment...and enlightening me on the law. This will be very interesting to watch. Much appreciated.